Welcome to the first installment of a new series of shorter articles I’m writing about life in Korea. This article is all about my experience getting the AstraZeneca Vaccine in Korea, describing the highs and (mostly lows) of the vaccine process and effects, and my motivation for getting vaccinated early.
If you’re in Korea and want to know how to get vaccinated now, then there’s some useful info about getting the vaccine ahead of schedule. I’ll also go through my own experience step by step, including the recovery process.
I’ve got to admit, the whole process was surprisingly fast and I’m lucky that I didn’t suffer too much (but I did suffer). There were a few silly mistakes that I made that really hurt the recovery process. Hopefully you can avoid those.
Please Note: I’m not a doctor and nothing in this article should be taken for medical advice. Be sure to check with your local doctor about any effects of getting the AstraZeneca vaccine or any other vaccines.
Ways Of Getting The AstraZeneca Vaccine In Korea
There are three main ways of getting vaccinated in Korea. These are:
1: Being notified by the government that it’s your turn to get vaccinated.
The Korean government has been notoriously slow in getting vaccines out to people (they’ve just started vaccinating people aged between 65 – 75) and if you’re under 40 (like me), then you’re looking at a very long wait for a vaccine.
2: Using the newly-released leftover-vaccine booking system through Naver and Kakao apps.
The leftover-vaccine booking system will allow you to get vaccinated at a local public health centre, assuming they have vaccines available. This launched in late-May and seems like a nice idea, but it has been plagued with complaints – namely that there aren’t any leftover vaccines showing anywhere.
3: Calling local clinics and asking if they have any leftover vaccines available.
The third option, which has been around for a few months already, is to call local private clinics and ask if they have unwanted vaccines. If they do, you may be able to get one if you can come to the clinic at short notice. I’ve known several other people who have had success with this system and it’s the way that I managed to get vaccinated early.
A word of warning if you’re thinking of trying any of these methods – you’ll need to speak Korean or have a friend who can
This article only details my experience with the AstraZeneca vaccine – one of the 2 main vaccines currently used in South Korea. The other is Pfizer, used in more than 50% of the vaccinations so far.
My Experience Getting The AstraZeneca Vaccine
On May 27th, 2021, I was lucky enough to find out that I was getting the AstraZeneca vaccine from my local clinic here in Daejeon.
Although today marked the start of the leftover-vaccine programme through Kakao and Naver, it was through the short-notice leftover-vaccine scheme that I was able to get my vaccine.
And it certainly was short notice. I had 2 hours to get out of bed, get ready, and go and get vaccinated.
Here’s how it all happened from booking the appointment to getting to where I am now after the 3 day recovery period.
Booking The Appointment
With blurry eyes, I picked up my rudely buzzing phone and answered it at the unholy hour of 9am on my day off. I quickly perked up when I found out that I’d been blessed just enough to be able to secure one of the highly sought-after COVID vaccines.
OK, I’ve got to admit something here… Even after 6 years of living in Korea, my Korean isn’t that great and I didn’t call up to book the appointment myself.
I quickly perked up when I found out that I’d been able to secure one of the highly sought-after COVID vaccines.
My incredible girlfriend made the call (while I was still asleep) and asked about any leftover vaccines for that day. The local clinic did indeed have some available vaccines and I was able to get one if I could arrive by 11am.
I jumped into the shower, ate a quick breakfast (eating a big meal before getting the AstraZeneca vaccine is recommended), and made my way out to the clinic to make sure I wasn’t late.
Getting The AstraZeneca Vaccine At The Clinic
I arrived at the clinic just in time, and managed to use my limited Korean skills to confirm the appointment, provide my details, and confirm that I, probably, didn’t have any expected allergic reactions to the vaccine. Hopefully that’s what I did…
There were certainly some strange looks from the other patients in the clinic when I said I was there to get vaccinated. It appeared that I was 40 years too early!
a friendly nurse stuck the needle in, took it out, and gave me a cute Pororo plaster
The process of actually getting the AstraZeneca vaccine was really simple. I saw the doctor, they asked a few more questions and told me about the possible side-effects, as well as a few things I should do to stay healthy after getting vaccinated.
Then it was into another room with a friendly nurse who pointed to where I was going to get jabbed, stuck the needle in, took it out, and gave me a cute Pororo plaster (pictured above) to keep me safe.
I had to wait in the clinic for 20 minutes to make sure I didn’t suffer from shock.
I thanked the clinic staff and left. The whole process took under an hour and didn’t cost a penny (or won) as the vaccine scheme is covered by the Korean government.
Time to celebrate…
The First Day After Getting Vaccinated
Did I follow the sage advice of the doctor and go home and rest for the day? Ummm, sadly not.
What did I do then? I went the nearest McDonald’s to check out the newly-released BTS Meal instead of having a healthy meal for lunch. Obviously. Got to get some pictures to share with everyone.
I started to feel sore all over and really sleepy
I must admit that I hugely regret this decision for two reasons.
Firstly, it’s just a chicken nugget meal in a pinky-purple box with 3 letters added to it and a couple of sauces that didn’t really fit the taste of the nuggets. Not worth all the fuss if you ask me.
Secondly, and a lot more regrettable in this situation, the meal was really salty and I hadn’t drunk a lot of liquids that day.
I then went to a cafe to do some work and went home for to cook some more salty food and have a quiet evening in relaxing, resting, and feeling fine.
I didn’t feel any symptoms during the day and it wasn’t until early evening that I started to feel sore all over and really sleepy – side-effects that are quite common when getting the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Unfortunately, the problems didn’t stop there…
I started feeling really thirsty and that’s when I realised I’d had a lot more salty food than normal and not a lot to drink besides coke and coffee. Uh oh.
I won’t go into details, but suffering from dehydration is not fun. Coupled with the aches from the vaccine and the tiredness, but not being able to sleep… it all lead to a rather horrible, restless night of extreme discomfort.
Was this because of the vaccine?
Partly, but it was also mostly my fault for not choosing healthier meals.
I made sure to remedy this over the next couple of days by sticking to yummy chicken rice-porridge (pictured above), fresh vegetables, and some plain crackers.
And lots of liquids!
Side-Effects Of The AstraZeneca Vaccine That I Experienced
During the three day recovery-period, I experienced a few other side-effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine. I never felt as bad as I did on that first night, but I also never really felt at full health either.
The most noticeable problem was the muscle ache that seemed to exist all over my body, especially in my arms and legs. They felt really heavy and sluggish like I’d been exercising all day and they needed to rest.
I felt thirsty all the time
Headaches were frequent, mostly at night. I took some Tylenol to calm them, but didn’t want to take too much as I’ve read this can slow the work of the vaccine in building anti-bodies.
I felt thirsty all the time. Even after switching to less-salty meals.
And tired. So tired. I spent most of the three days sitting or lying down and felt lethargic non-stop. I did manage to get out and socialise on the third day, but felt a headache coming on in the evening and had another bad night’s ‘rest’ after that.
Not terrible, and certainly not nearly as bad as the people suffering from the actual virus. I’ll be a lot more prepared now for the second dose… which is meant to be worse!
Why I Wanted To Get Vaccinated Now
Whilst I certainly enjoy living in Korea, I definitely do miss travelling to different countries, exploring more of the world, and after 2 and a half years of not returning to England, I really want to see my family again.
I don’t expect to be travelling freely again any time soon, but if there’s any chance to get home for Christmas or the winter break without having to spend weeks in quarantine or at risk, then I’ll need to get vaccinated before my scheduled time.
My scheduled time in Korea hasn’t actually been determined and, with the rate the vaccinations are going, probably would have been until autumn or winter, which isn’t enough time to get both doses of a vaccine that has 3 months between the two shots.
After 2 and a half years of not returning to England, I really want to see my family again.
So, I wanted to jump ahead and take the opportunity to get vaccinated if I could. I don’t feel like I’m taking a vaccine from someone else as it was a leftover one that someone, I assume, didn’t want.
I hope that the whole world can be vaccinated before too long and certainly those who are more in need should get them first wherever they are.
However, I like Korea’s system of giving leftover or unwanted vaccines to those who are available at short notice.
If they really aren’t going to be used by someone else, then speeding up the vaccine process for the whole country, whatever your age, seems like the best thing to do.
Tips For Staying Well After Getting Vaccinated
Again, I’m not a medical practitioner, so please don’t take these as medical advice. These are some of the things I was advised to do by the clinic, as well as remedies I found useful during my initial recovery period.
1: Drink lots of water
I suffered from really bad dehydration for the first day, and continued to be really thirsty during the recovery period. I’d recommend lots of water and Powerade or similar sports drinks.
2: Don’t shower for 24 hours
I was told not to shower after getting the AstraZeneca vaccination. Probably best to shower before you go to get it.
3: Avoid alcohol
Alcohol can inhibit the recovery process. Your body will take longer to recover and adapt to the vaccination. Cut out alcohol for a few days.
4: Avoid salty and fried foods
As with the first point, dehydration was a real problem for me the first night. Stay healthy and don’t give your body extra problems to deal with.
5: Don’t exercise
I was recommended not to exercise after getting vaccinated. I don’t think that means don’t go out, just don’t push yourself too hard.
Generally, it’s best to treat the 3 day recovery period as if you’re sick and trying to get better. Do what you’d normally do when recovering from the flu and you should suffer less.
More About Life In Korea
If you want to know more about life in Korea, then why not check out these other articles
My Expat Life In Korea: My personal story about my life living in Korea as an expat.
My Life In Korea During COVID-19: My experience during the first 2 years of the pandemic.
Korean Travel Essentials
Planning to visit Korea? These travel essentials will help you plan your trip, get the best deals, and save you time and money on your Korean adventure.
Korea Electronic Travel Authorisation (K-ETA): Most countries need a K-ETA to travel to Korea. Apply before you travel only with the Official K-ETA Site.
Flights To Korea: Look around before you book flights. I recommend flight comparison sites such as Expedia and Skyscanner for the best flights to Korea.
Hotels In Korea: Staying in Seoul, I recommend Myeongdong (convenient), Hongdae (cool culture) or Gangnam (shopping). Get the best hotel prices with Klook and Agoda.
Tours In Korea: Find the best tours in Korea with tour companies that have a big presence in Korea, including Klook, Trazy, and Get Your Guide.
Staying Connected: Pre-order a Korean Sim Card or a Portable WiFi Router to collect on-arrival at Incheon Airport. Collection desks are open 24 hours.
Travel Money: Exchange foreign currency in Myeongdong or at a WOW exchange machine. Pick up a Wise or Revolut travel money card for the best rates and convenient card payments.
Transportation: Get a T-Money Card to pay for public transport. If you plan to use Korea’s high speed trains, save money and get unlimited rides with a Korea Rail Pass.
Incheon Airport To Seoul: Take the Airport Express (AREX) to Seoul Station or a limo bus to other parts of Seoul. Don’t want to carry heavy suitcases? Book an Incheon Airport Private Transfer and relax to or from the airport.
Learning Korean: Want to learn Korean before you travel? I recommend 90 Day Korean as they have well-structured lessons and loads of useful resources.
Share Your Thoughts
If you enjoyed reading this article, or if you have any thoughts about it that you want to share, please feel free to leave a message in the comments below. I’d love to hear your feedback about this article and the subject.
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